Pakistani/North Indian style - Wilmslow Rd, Rusholme
May 2011 - One of the best Karahi Goshts anywhere - good chops too
Traditional Karahi Gosht
A rare Sunday trip meant only one thing - Nihari. It was £6, and a couple of chapattis made that up to £7, which is more than you'd pay in a curry cafe. It was also a bit better than the last few I've had, justifying the slightly higher price. It had more and better quality meat than most, made properly tender from the long slow cooking and itwas nicely spiced - a few lately have been really heavy on the garam masala. A delicious dish and one I'd go for again. I'm now even more intrigued by the rest of the dishes in the 'Traditional' section, as the Karahi Gosht and Nihari have been excellent. As good as any and better than most of the restaurants round here. - There's still the cafe vibe, so maybe not the place for a special occaision but the food is some of the best around.
A tale of two dishes really - pretty mediocre kebab, fairly dry chicken doner, only lettuce in the salad - but all OK. Great traditional Karahi Gosht. It's just a bit pricey for a lunch time at around £7 before rice or roti. - As we've said before, this dish is very similar to probably my favourite on the whole curry mile, which was the 'TKG' at Darbar (in its prime), it remains so and therefore justifies the price tag as one of the best curries around. This opinion is shared by a few.
May 2011Al Madina is very much one of those laid back cafe type places – plastic chairs and table tops, no table service, jugs of water and all that. – But the food is some of the best around. Some time ago I got a takeaway Traditional Karahi Gosht from here and it was similar to the best I’ve had – which was at Darbar in its heyday. So, circumstances conspired for me to eat in here once more and once more I ordered it – and it was even better. The chops were great, the fish tikka was crisp and freshly fried in a delicious batter – the roti were fine – blah blah blah (I’m being unfair because the other items would normally be worthy of note). But that’s not the point – this curry was something else. One of the best I’ve ever had. My companion, though not a Flavours of Manchester regular, knows his onions and was instantly envious and joyous in equal measure. So what’s so good about it? It’s hard to say – it’s a proper dish, with almost no ‘gravy’ – certainly no base sauce. Just scant, rich juices, shards of garlic and ginger and hints of tomato, mint and chilli - all clinging to delicious morsels of meat on the bone, creating a harmonious, even luxurious, whole. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for this dish for old time’s sake. I don’t know – but it’s rare to get such a ‘real’ curry that’s so delicious. Most of the ‘real’ stuff is confined to canteen-style vats in curry cafes – it’s homely and tasty but it rarely, truly excites the palate. This isn’t to say one style is better than the other – but there’s a difference between decent and tasty and truly delicious. This difference is certainly reflected in the price - £7-£8? – I can’t remember, but pretty high for this sort of establishment. However, if I had to recommend one curry dish in the city, at the moment, this would honestly be it. I know this write up is all a bit fruity and unnecessary, but credit where it’s due – this is a cut above, certainly from my point of view.
Great kebabs, no surprises, both chicken and lamb were of the highest order - arriving at different times, both cooked perfectly. Laid back atmosphere and great samosas help things along nicely. It's well up there with the best. It must be good to steal our business from the mighty Saajan across the road. Both types of bread were aslo very good today. If being mega-picky perhaps the salad could do with a bit more variety, but that's a tiny gripe.
For once we did not get kebabs, instead opting for the tempting looking fish and chops marinading away under the counter at the front – as well as daal and a Traditional Karahi Gosht. The chops and fish were both great – interesting marinades, well cooked and no sign of food colouring. The daal wan not so good – it tasted like it had been knocked up from a packet blend of curry powder and not even ‘cooked out’ to get rid of the raw taste. However – the real star was the karahi gosht, it tasted just like the one from Darbar – lamb on the bone with barely any sauce at all – though strongly flavoured with garlic and a hint of mint. Cracking stuff. This dish was a particular favourite of mine and what I considered to be the best of its type – nothing generic about it and no hint of base sauce. Quality doesn’t come cheap – our little haul was £20.50, but well worth it. There’s just a hint of something great about Al Madina – we hope they keep it up.
Excellent today - fish tikka on naan was a bit of a bargain at £4. It was fresh, crispy and mildly spiced with slightly thick batter - making it almost English style, though on fresh naan with salad. This migfht seem odd to some, but it was a nice change and very enjoyable. Chicken Doner for £3 with a can of pop is also a bit of a bargain and was plentiful and delicious. No complaints at all.
After the great trip late last year Al-Madina is back to good - but not great. The chicken was fine but chopped up into small pieces on the grill, which dries it out a bit. The seekhs good but not outstanding - the lamb was avoided because it looked a bit old and tired under the glass and the chapattis appeared to have been hanging around a bit and were a little cold. Having said that it was all fine, the marinades good, salad fine, sauces good etc etc. Just not quite what we'd hoped for after last time. Back to a good, if straight-forward, experience, but one that isn't better than or different enough to Saajan just over the road. It's still one of the bettter places of this type, just not the best in this area.
Scores out of 10
Well, after a few mediocre trips Al Madina is right back in the zone. Excellent keababs - meat, salad, sauces and bread were all of the highest order. Lamb possibly a tad over cooked if being picky, but still flavoursome and moist, the chicken excellent and the bread finally up to scratch. The other dishes here are good too - the entire grill selection is tempting, as are the cold dishes such as papri chaat and a bowl of curry that passed by for another diner. The samosa was one of the best to date - if eaten fresh, rather than mirowaved, it would have been incredible, however it was still great thanks to an interesting herby filling. Al-Madina is one of the very few places of this ilk in which the advice to stick to what they do best would be difficult to follow, as it all genuinely looks good. Perhaps this is because they stick to Asian food - not a pizza box in sight. We will return and hope they're keeping the standards up.
Scores out of 10
The first visit to Al Madina was quite a bit better than the subsequent ones, which is a shame as at first it seemed that this relaxed and somehow 'authentic' place would be a real contender for top spot and a regular stop off point. However, the last few visits have been rather disappointing. The bread was too spongy and doughy, and the salad and sauces were bland. But the meat is still of a high standard, with the seekh kebab being particularly tasty – unfortunately this wasn’t enough to pull round an otherwise uninspiring kebab. But the starters were good, with meat samosas a strong point. The service was slightly strange with the slower cooking chicken being put on the grill after the seekhs, which meant that the meals arrived a significant time apart - creating the knock on effect of cold naan for the second diner. However, cold or not, the bread was not up to scratch and let this establishment down. We've not quite given up on the place yet and to be fair these are OK kebabs, nothing terrible - just not quite as good as they could be.
Scores out of 10